Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Unfamous Rawlings Christmas Letter 2012

Rawlings Family Christmas 2012

Welcome back to the Rawlings Family Christmas Letter, 2012 version.  This year was full of reminders of our advancing seniority and our precarious existence.  We are now officially and permanently empty nesters, as Alan graduated and moved out of the house in September.  The boys were all three here over Thanksgiving for the first time in a couple years.  They all sorted through their stuff left in the house and took what they wanted, with the rest to go to Goodwill.  All gone.  To get head start on our new life, we went to Europe for two weeks in June to celebrate our 30th Anniversary.  The itinerary was grueling, but we made good friends and had a great time.  Well keep reading.  Who knows how long we can keep the boys writing these now that they are all out of the house.  Merry Christmas to all!

Becky:  It is with heavy heart I start my letter this year.  My mother passed away in February.  She had been struggling since July with a blood disorder and other health issues.  I have many great memories to help ease the pain and  I know she is now at peace.  I continue to work as a high school nurse and an admission nurse at a local hospital.  In March, during Alan and my spring break ,we started a patio down by our lake.  We moved tons of dirt and carried 12 pallets of blocks, rocks, gravel, mulch, and sand.  It was completed just in time to celebrate Herb’s birthday on May 24th.  Our trip  in June was my first time I had been to Europe  and we saw 8 countries, 16 cities in 15 days!!  In July I rested from our vacation and spent time with friends and family before returning to school.  My sisters, their husbands, my dad, and one nephew drove to Indiana for Thanksgiving.  Our first Thanksgiving we did not travel in 29 years!!  Our 3 sons also spent a week to 2 weeks with us in November too.  It was great having everyone here.  Happy Holidays to our friends and family.  rawlingsbl@gmail.com

It’s Mark! This year was great, I was on vacation for almost half of it, and my life is much simpler now.  I stopped working at both Venture Outdoors and the photo studio in favor of working as the first official employee of a small energy outfitter doing manufacturing and design.  We convert all kinds of energy (especially human energy!) to electricity for your consumption needs.  We've setup energy systems on everything from the Carrie Furnace's (one of Pittsburgh's oldest structures left over from the steel days, and a National Historic Landmark) museum to my sailboat!  It's pretty exciting and I love it.  I also have signed a lease to live in a house on the northside for the next three years, I’m really enjoying the idea of staying in one place for a bit.
Okay, enough of work...  when we left off last year I was dreaming up a new adventure, which included buying my Mother's Father's 36 foot sailboat, sailing it around the Bahamas through treacherous seas and beautiful beaches, and as a result skipping winter yet again.  I'll have you all know I succeeded admirably, along with 10 of my closest friends.  We had a blast... but what happens in the Bahamas, stays in the Bahamas.  I'll provide links at the bottom of the page for pictures and hopefully that will help fill in the gaps.  When we got back from the trip in April I found my job at Zero Fossil and immediately convinced them to let me leave to explore Vancouver Island and it's neighbors for two weeks in the beginning of June.  This is one of the most peaceful beautiful places in the world.  I started visiting with an old friend from college in Vancouver and then continued on to meet an old traveling buddy on the Island.  Meghan and I hiked and hitchhiked our way around the island, taking ferries to remote areas and tiny out islands, and meeting some of the nicest people you can imagine.  We lived off of 2 bottles of wine a day and bread... hiked every hiking trail in several parks and made a couple new ones.  After a long ferry ride back to the mainland and then a longer plane ride back to Pittsburgh I couldn't stand to stay still so I worked out a trip with an ex-coworker Laura and we hiked the Appalachian Trail for 10 days in southern Virginia the first weeks of July.  This is beautiful country in my birth-state (for 'birthstate' unhyphenated autocorrect suggests afterbirth?) that I didn't even know existed!  Everyone in the area should check out Grayson Highlands State Park if you want to take a peek at some of the highlights.  The rest of the summer was a mix of work and pleasure, taking several trips with Erica down to see Sandpiper, up to a friends Canada cottage to hide from the summer heat for a week, and various other excursions including a 22 mile geocaching adventure.  As winter closes in I’m dreaming about the Bahamas but fear that this might be the first year since 2008 that I won’t see her shores... sigh.
Alan:  Seasons greetings yet again my fellow bipedal mammals. Another year has passed and another 4 yrs of YES WE CAN to come. My last semester of college was a bit stressful having been forced to jam 4 extra credits into it due to unnecessary high school repetition. But anyway, I am officially a WVU alumni and have two scientific degrees to show for it after 5 long yrs. I had to be an expert witness in a bank robbery/murder case as well as a technician/researcher in a sexual assault case. Not to mention a master researcher in arson investigations. Oh and by the way, those cases were hypothetical. I know more about finger nail polish than I ever wanted to. But hey, I finished with a 3.36 GPA and a smile on my face even being so close to those fancy sumo titles (and about 300 pounds.) I don’t know how I feel about those giant thongs anyway. After all the ceremonies and celebration it was time to go home and help build a patio down by the lake. Soon after that I once again returned to Custom Resins to not only test nylon but MAKE it. I also learned that if you pressurize any semi-liquid you can make a very comfortable temperpedic cloud pillow (not to be used at work) (patent pending). I was kind enough to house sit while my parents went to Europe. After 4 months of playing with a small pressurized reactor it was time to finally move in with my lady and my love (same person gutter dwellers). We have finished moving in and I'm officially a resident of the state of Pennsylvania. Now restarts the search for jobs. I do have a couple of good leads and am scheduled to take the civil servants test for the state allowing me to be a government employee, hopefully soon. I look forward to the coming holiday and wish you all the best! Much love bruthas and sistas. Go forth and be goofy.
            I write to you again from Denver, it appears that Kari and I have established a pretty permanent base camp for ourselves. I take every opportunity I can to travel and explore, and the opportunities abound. Mark invited me and two of my friends to join him on Sandpiper once they had done all the hard work sailing her down to the Bahamas in January. It was all the spearfishing, sailing, and island exploration you could hope for in a nonstop tour of the out islands. Back at home our group of fellow Denver transplants has become our family out here and we always have trips and activities going on. Theres “Monday Funday” get togethers at the park every week, a chili cooking contest (see my blog for my blue ribbon recipe), trips to the mountains for boarding (terrible snow last season though...), camping, hiking, and rock climbing, our dog Derby keeping us busy, and that's just the beginning. We banded together a soccer team and I have a lot of fun with that. I designed a jersey for us, the Eagle Sharks, and manage the team. A hike through Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world, was an amazing experience: A 20 mile hike, inescapable for 12 miles after you enter, the red rock walls jumped to 1000 feet straight up and in places were so narrow your shoulders could touch both sides. And speaking of red rock, we are fortunate to live just a few miles from Red Rocks Amphitheater, the highlight of the year was definitely the Mumford and Sons show, they have awesome energy and great music and were at their best that night as they were filming the official music video for I Will Wait, squint really hard when you watch it and you can see me, right by the sound stage. The sold out showing of Anchorman was a close second best show. We have made a few trips out of our lovely state, visiting Pittsburgh and the parents in Indiana, and spending Thanksgiving on the beach in Key West; there’s nothing like a big lobster for Thanksgiving dinner. And thanks to everyone who came and visited us out here, we always welcome visits from friends and family. I have another 2 week trip out to California pending, and the best part is that its all paid for! To train! For my new job!! As a Microbiologist!!! I have been working for a couple weeks doing mycology and asbestos analysis for EMLab and my training will mean being shipped around to San Fran, Chicago, and Phoenix. I am pretty excited about it. Happy Holiday and thanks for reading, that's all for this edition, drive carelessly.
  BRawlings@gmail.com                                                            blrownsu.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Being Alone

 I never travel alone. maybe a lonely long car ride or flight here and there, but there was always someone waiting to greet me on the other side of that trip. Literally, always. I have never gone somewhere that I didnt know anyone there or was going to some kind of event where everyone is a stranger and you make friends by default, like a summer camp or something. You see the lonely businessman sitting a the bar at Chili's, the one chatting with the friendly barkeep as he wipes down the bar with a wet rag. Its charming to see, like youre watching a scene from a movie, but I dont want to be that guy. I became that guy.
My trip to San Fransisco went well, I learned a lot about identifying mold spores (super interesting, I know), and I also learned what happens when I am deprived of my usual social environment outside of work hours. I was temporarily working in a swanky office park, across from corporate offices for Walmart and YouTube, and at work it was great, good people, interesting to learn new things, but then when it came quitting time I was on my own. This means leaving work to walk to my hotel as the sun feebly tries to see 5 oclock, the winter solstice just around the corner urging it over the horizon. I call Kari, an hour ahead in Denver and undoubtedly already engaged in some fun activity with friends back home, leave her a message, and arrive at the hotel's front door at the same time as night's darkness. My plans to go for a run are extinguished with the sun. The prospect of braving the traffic to go wander the city alone doesnt seem appealing either. A couple episodes of Seinfeld later and I have arrived at the most exciting part of the evening. What for dinner? Apparently I am in an asian neighborhood because the only restaurants around are Thai take-out and sushi joints. And a Chili's. Maybe I will sit next to some other "that guy" eating at the bar and we can just be a couple normal guys. I take a seat at the Chili's bar, 3 college looking kids to my right getting way too excited about a basketball game, and a couple to my left, the wife yammering on about something as the husband pokes at the remaining broccoli on his plate. I am thinking about how to start a conversation with him when he lights up at the sign of the bill and hurries out of the place. They are soon replaced by a couple Bros about my age, I give them a "sup" nod as they take a seat, and I am gauging their suitability for potential temporary companionship when they call over the female bartender (ignoring the guy right in front of them) and order two shots of Jager, take them together, and then one orders another for himself, I guess because he enjoys it? I resist facepalming, thinking there could still be an interesting conversation in there somewhere, when Bro #2 starts telling a story "Dude I forgot to tell you. I took this stripper home the other night...". Facepalm. The bartender asks for my ID and I try to start up a conversation "Huh, I'm used to getting funny looks when I hand over a California ID" and as the friendly barkeep takes the bait and asks where I'm from wiping down the Chili's bar with a wet rag, I realize what I've become. 
The rest of the trip went well enough, I sucessfully avoided Chili's for the next 2 weeks and found a couple spots that offered a little better dining experience. I made friends with the wise old Japanese itamae, Jimmy, at the sushi bar down the street, and even met a few other "that guy"s to have some normal social interaction with.  The meals were the lonliest part of the day, and the early setting sun just made it that much harder to get out and be active after work. Next week I set off to do it all again, luckily Kari will be with me for the first week, and I feel much better prepared for week two, maybe I'll even summon up the courage to wander the streets alone this time, see what stories I can unearth there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I have had an easy life. My parents, other family and friends have supported me through any hardships I brought upon myself or was unlucky enough to fall into. A couple big ones here and there, but there really have not been that many. I would like to think that some of that is due to myself, living life so that I don't get into those bad situations, make my own luck by making the right decisions on a large and small scale. The point is though, I have never really experienced things like being in crazy debt, living in a broken home, abuse, neglect, destitution, really, of any sort. I would be able to handle these situations, no problem. That is what I tell myself. I am smart, capable, and experienced, I do well for myself now and I think most people who know me would think that were things to go downhill I would continue to persevere and succeed. But do they really know? Do I? No.

For the first time in my adult life someone who I loved died. Sure I have experienced death in the past, like my grandparents dieing when I was in middle school, but I had no expectations of myself then. I was still encountering new situations all the time and learning how I reacted to them. Death is an inevitability. It is an absolute fact that everyone will die eventually, 100% sure I know that is going to happen. That makes me feel like I should be able to accept it and prepare myself for what it will be like when someone dies, that I had done that. But I surprised myself. I wasnt prepared to accept that I would never see her again. It wasnt an open, nostalgic, think of all the good times, why did it have to happen now, what could have been different, I think that is what I had prepared myself for. The absoluteness of it is what strikes me, the never, and so sudden. People talk about the death of grandparents or someone who is sick sometimes like, they had been sick, it was only a matter of time, it was their time. Like that makes it easier to accept. And sure, it is harder to accept the death of someone who is young and fit than someone who has lived a full life and been in a hospital for months or something like that, but it is an infinitely large step, from life to death, no matter who has taken that step.

I hear about people going to war and coming back a changed person, affected by the things that they saw, not being able to return to regular civilian life, suffering from PTSD. I like to think I could overcome that mental barrage and I would come back fine. People growing up surrounded by violence and hatred. I like to think I would have come out just as cheery and well rounded as I am. But I don't know, how can I? I can only respect those that have overcome such hardships and hope that I continue to live my cushy life and that I can persevere like I think I can when it comes down to it. It is not often that I surprise myself, but it is also rare that I have the opportunity to learn something new about myself. If you take what you can out of every situation you are put into, that is all you can do to be the best you can be, right? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. What a stupid saying...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Classy Drunken Roasted Poblano Sparerib Chili

It is superbowl tradition among my friends to pair the "big game" with a chili cookoff. A winning tradition indeed. I am generally good at improvising a dish that pleases the palette and so I trusted my instinct as I walked around the grocery store, inventing my chili based on what was on sale and whatever inspirations I had along the way. The dish was started yesterday morning and I regrettably didnt write anything down, so I am going to give it a try from memory, I am not even going to try to remember amounts of spices.

  • 1/2 rack pork spare ribs
  • 1/2 lb ground angus beef
  • 1 lb thick cut bacon


  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 12 oz Brawlings Brewery Pilsner (or some other lesser beer)
  • 1c water
  • 1/8 c vermouth, maybe less
  • several healthy dashes of Braggs liquid aminos (great stuff, you should get it if you dont have it)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime


  • Tons of salt, I like using kosher salt
  • bunch of pepper
  • some cumin
  • a little more coriander
  • 1/8 c fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted with the ribs
  • ground cayenne pepper
  • oregano
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • medium onion
  • 5 gloves of garlic
  • a drip of liquid smoke
  • For the bacon: brown sugar

Other Stuff

  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • sprinkeling of corn meal.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Tomato slices, parmesean and cheddar cheese
  • for the ribs: a little teriyaki, a little bbq sauce (Stubbs "Texas Butter", good stuff...), rosemary, oregano, salt

Start by cooking the ribs, I put the little bit of teriyaki and bbq sauce on them, and a dash of worcestershire, basically a dry rub though, rosemary and oregano, salt salt salt, pepper. Baked at 300 for 2.5 hours, I put the poblano in for about 2 hours with it, rotating it every now and then, letting it roast in the juices.

This is the second time I have mentioned brown sugar candied bacon in my blog, if you didnt take my advice before, well, you must give it a try. A mix of brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne pepper sprinkled generously over bacon and fried makes an irresistibly delicious plate of smokey candied bacon, and also makes a perfect topping for some chili.

Chop the onion and garlic (yes, chop the garlic, no need to dice) and saute it in the leftover deliciousness from the bacon that you have already eaten half of. Brown that beef after the onions are done, drain out as much or as little of the bacon fat before cooking as you see suitable, and you may want to consider leaving in some of the drippings in after it is browned to add to the chili, throw some spices in with it if youd like, definitely salt. When the ribs are done get all the meat off the bone, take out any gristle and give it a rough chop. The poblano should be ready to go too, chop it up pretty fine, take the seeds with it if you want to add spice, the heat from a poblano is a dull, smokey, kind of back of the tongue heat, or if you dont want any extra spice, the roasted pepper itself hardly has any spice to it without the seeds but still adds some great flavor.

Now, take all those other liquidities (the vinegar, worcestershire, hot sauce and stuff... use your judgement) and add 'em to a pot, medium low heat. The beans. The diced tomatoes. Drain them. Or dont. The spices are a free for all, a few dashes here and there of each, dont be shy with the salt, do be shy with the liquid smoke, really just a drop, give it a solid few tablespoons of chili powder. Destem and chop the cilantro. Add the beef and rib meat, the poblano. Sprinkle in some corn meal if it is too runny, skip it if you like the consistency, remember it will thicken as it simmers.

Simmer till the party, coming back and adding random crap every time you pass the pot. Like Vermouth... I really liked that addition though, it really went with the flavors.

To top the chili, we have already made the candied bacon, one of the greatest flavors known to man, chop that into little delicious bacon bits. I wanted to add another flavor that is definitely in the top 10 flavors of all time. Toasted cheese. That little bit of cheddar that oozes out of a grilled cheese sandwich and fries on the pan and makes the little pedestal of accidental deliciousness? You can do that on purpose. In an ungreased nonstick pan, cover tomato slices in a mixture of grated cheddar and parmesan (real parmesan), maybe a little salt and chili powder on there, and go cheese down onto the already hot pan. Let them fry until the edges get brown, almost burnt, and flip them onto a plate. I found it easier to do a bunch at once, let the pan cool, and then take them off after things had hardened up a bit.

Delicious chili topped with candied bacon and a toasted cheese encrusted tomato slice. Ladies and gentleman, you have yourselves an award winning bowl of chili. Just last night, as the winner of the 3rd Annual Denver Orphans Superbowl Chili Cookoff, I personally won a chance to win a quarter million dollars! For a bowl of chili! Turns out the scratch off won $10, but still... pretty sweet. Let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Punta Kinda

Sitting in the airport with nothing better to do, I decide I need to write something. Perhaps I should give writing more priority, these days I feel like I always have something to do, but
writing should be more important. I am returning from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic where Kari and I went to see our friends get married. By all means it was an irresponsible decision, at a point where both of us should be pinchin pennies, but man was it a great time. For like $140 a
night we got all the delicious food we could eat, drinks we could dream up, room service, massages, we could have done horseback riding, snorkeling, just endless awesomeness. I say "could have" because we only spent $400 of our $1500 resort credit, so we had $1100 worth of hotel services left unused. Every time we sat down with someone to spend credits they would say things like "you have to be there by..." or "make sure you remember to..." and, well, we were just not willing to commit to anything, so there they remain, unspent, and were forced to spend our time lounging on the beach, winning (ya, i said it) money in the casino, attending wedding functions, and exploring the places, foods and beverages that the resort had to offer. 5 days spent within the walls of the Hard Rock and not an inkling of a desire to go anywhere else. Especially not home...

It feels totally out of character for me to have stayed in the same place for so long, not once venturing out to see the country which would have been so much different from anywhere I had been before. It was like travelling from the US to a secluded mini-US where the people spoke english funny, with a terrifying dash through the Dominican Republic in between. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was 40 minutes of furious traffic/pedestrian/donkey dodging and was the only indication that the place where we stayed for a week was not totally populated by happy colorful english speaking folk carrying around frozen Pina Coladas. That and the subtle suggestion of the resort's perimeter fence, electrified and topped with razor wire. I wish I were joking.

It was great to see our friends get married, two of our closest friends here in Denver, we have only ever known them together so it just seemed right. We have found ourselves quite a posse out here, and almost the whole group was able to make it out to the wedding. I don't care how irresponsible it was, you can't put a price on memories like that. Still got an hour or so till the flight leaves... now what do I write about? I haven't written a good rant in forever...

Monday, October 10, 2011


I was thinking about forever. Like, the longest time imaginable, the longest time unimaginable. FOREVER. The only way that forever can exist is in metaphore, fairy tales, abstraction. The world wont last forever, the sun wont, the universe wont even last forever. You, however, can exist foever in the arms of Yaweh in endless bliss and happiness and it will be super awesome. Forever. All you have to do is praise him for the 70 years you spend on the practically nonexistent dot in the middle of the solar system that is a non existent dot in the middle of the galaxy that is the non existent dot in the middle of the universe. No, none of them in the middle, somewhere insignificant off to the side. This 70 years you spend on Earth, this planet so beautifully governed by science and physics and with all those twinkeling stars to look at, these years determine whether you are going to spend FOREVER in agony and torture if you do not praise Yaweh, or heaven FOREVER if you do praise him. I know, time, space, existence wont be the same once St. Peter admits you through the pearly gates, but in a jesusmillion heavenyears, imagine you and your cool black friend you always wanted are sitting on the lesbian cloud (not a cloud full of lesbians mind you, they are not allowed in heaven, but an actual female cloud who likes other female clouds, its just a cool place to hang out) when one of you remembers Earth.

Remember Earth??

Ya! Kind of... What was up with that...?

And then you would spend the rest of forever in endless awesomeness. I, however, will still be suffering in the lakes of fire at the hands of satan because I did not choose to recognize Yaweh as my lord and savior. Alongside the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, 95% of China (as of 2008 says Wikipedia), and, purely based on the fact that they worship the wrong deity, a great majority of the worlds population, who are FOREVER going to be subjected to the unending wrath of satan. FOREVER. Please dont let my repeated use of that word decrease its significance. FOREVER. Never ending unimaginable agony. After another jesusmillion years, 70 years is nothing, your time on earth ceases to exist. Heaven or hell becomes your entire existence. Most of us spend our entire existence and forever after that in hell. If there is true bliss in heaven, the idea of hell must be totally wiped out, because I know lots of people who would be pained with the knowledge of the tortured souls, friends, family, who are to spend their entire existence in hell. Heaven does not exist.

I have recently come into contact with two people who are devout christians, literal interpreters of the bible (which I think if you are really going to call yourself a christian, you should be). The first fought with me and asserted her belief and did her best to defend the bible and says I am going to hell for not praising her god. It was at a fondue party with the family. True story. The second, with the same belief system, couldnt give a rats ass about what I think, tells stories about her gay friends, and when I asked her if it bothers her that they are destined for eternal damnation, she says she just doesnt really think about that. If you actually think that the people around you are headed towards an eternity of torture in the fires of hell, wouldnt any good person do everything they can to stop that from happening? The fondue party lady, while much more difficult to be in a room with, deserves far more respect than contestant #2, who is either just a terrible person, or doesnt actually believe in the bible. I would like to think it is the latter because most christians are much more like #2. Idly sit by and leave my soul to eternal damnation or argue with me at a fondue party. Who has time for the unpleasantness?

Heaven does not exist. Hell does not exist. Yaweh, Buddah, Vishnu, Allah, Amun Ra, Hephaestus do not exist. I exist, humanity exists, goodness exists and it is not because of any great deity, evil exists too, and it is not because of any talking snake apples. It all exists within humanity and it takes a whole lot of faith to look at yourself and the world and believe that we can take that burden and move in the right direction on our own. But we have done that. Don't thank god for it, and dont thank god for that scholarship you got or the goal you scored, thank your teachers, your coaches, your parents, yourself. Getting through that accident, that break-up, that family members death, that was you and those around you, thank them. I can look at the goodness in humanity or the simple elegance and perfection in nature and have a religious experience that I can see right in front of my eyes. I absolutely know what I believe and I dont hate anyone because of it, I have no enemies, nobody is going to spend their existence in hell. There is no forever, there is no god, there is your lifetime, which is as close to forever as you will ever see, and there is a burden on you as part of humanity to spend your forever moving that burden in the right direction in whatever way you are able. Because you are able. Not for eternal reward or for fear of eternal punishment. We have the capacity to do good and so we have the responsibility.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beer Label Template

As I prepare to brew my first batch of beer one of the essential steps is, of course, designing the label. After searching for available label sizes to order, I found that the easiest way to do it is a perfect circle, I ordered 3.33" circles. I searched around for ideas and perhaps a good template for photoshop but could not find any. So I decided to make my own. I was first inspired by the website http://www.beerlabelizer.com/ which can create a really nice looking label, but I wanted more customization and so created a photoshop template. I seperated out all of the colored rings into layers, the text is all in editable text layers, and the images separate layers. My first test was the Brawlings Dunkel which was pretty satisfactory, and then I made the Humpback Ale for this post in just a few minutes, inspired by the whale that came up when I googled "funny clipart", ha, Humpback Ale, get it? So here it is, the photoshop file, a couple test runs, and a sample of what the circle labels looks like on the bottle.

Download the photoshop file here:http://www.mediafire.com/?16o4mlx29xbf8bj

Friday, January 28, 2011

And My Feet are Longfellows

I have always had the propensity to write my way through life. It is definitely my favorite form of communication and I think I represent myself best through words. I'm good at 'em. The popularity of AIM through my childhood was probably the reason for a few girls crushing on me (I mean, there were so many), I wooed them with words. It is so easy to type your feelings, backspace, revise. You can be quick witted without being that quick, it's nice. I came across a document of haikus that I wrote in boredom some yawny highschool afternoon and it inspired me to try to make a collection of some of my poetry. Speaking of yawny. Here it is.

This poem was a little contract piece I did on short notice back in '97, April 9th to be exact. A news crew decided to come to Castle Elementary to cover our observance of Arbor Day and two gifted young handsome good looking funny talented awesome students were selected to write a piece about arbor day to be read on the news. Crystal Winters (what a name right? Ya, we dated, no big deal) wrote something that was probably pretty good, considering the 20 minutes we had to complete it, and I popped out this little rhyme like some kind of Arbor Day free stylin 6th grader. I had to memorize it to read it on the news and somehow it stuck, it is amazing the things I forget, but I still know that poem.

Arbor Day, people say "What is it for"?
I tell them "The oaks, the poplars and all of the more"
They give everyone life, yes, you and me!
That's why we celebrate this day for the tree.
It's not just because they give us our wood,
It's because they breath in bad air, and exhale good.
So next time you cut down a tree that we need,
Don't walk away, make life with a seed.

Heres a few mushy ones. What better inspiration than love. I should send this first one to Hallmark.

My hands miss your graze,
My ears your tone.
My eyes miss your gaze,
My lips your own.

And this one I wrote while away on the boat for 8 months. I had a lot of free time to write, I even pieced together some driftwood and painted a picture to accompany the poem.

Living on a boat, I have come to know,
What I need to keep, and what can go.
Life on the sea makes me realize,

What I need in a life cut down to size.

First, of course, everyone needs them,

Three meals a day, just to feed them.

And it's a basic fact that once you're fed,
You need a place to lay your head.

A good night's sleep, wake up and then,

The next day do it all again.

To eat and sleep, thats technically,

All you need to live, biologically.

But to stay alive day to day,

Living life in such a way,
A trite existence this life would give,
Because "to stay alive" is not "to live".

So what is it I think is giving,

Meaning to make my life worth living?
None of that stuff you have on land,

The cars, the bars, the dates, the plans.

The toilets that flush with a lever,
Internet that doesn't take forever.

They are all just extra, superfluous,

But still there is something that I miss.

I've got a bed, and lots of food,

The thing that I'm missing is you.

I realize without you, I'm alone,

You are my life, my love , my home.

So after letting this issue seep,

Into my mind and thinking deep,

I realize all I need to keep,

Is you, food, and a place to sleep.

I realize all I need to keep,
Is you, food, and a place to sleep.

These are what I can remember from one of the early days with Kari, it was the night we decided that we would be the King and Empress of the world.

As King of the World I foresee an issue,
It might not be okay to kiss you.

The Earth will shudder, shake and twirl,

Cause when we kiss, you rock
my world.

It was also the first meal she cooked for me.

Because you've got the brains and looks,
I'll get over the fact that you cant cook.

These are the haikus that I found, pretty weird...


In daylight hours,
My Lifeforce driven along,
Sleepiness ensues.

-------------misunderstood kid--

They dont understand
I am dying on the inside
dark makeup reaveals.

------------cool kid-----------
You all know I'm cool
See all them with white Nikes?
My Nikes are blue.


Driving in the car
Passenger glued to window
line line line line line


entropy, can't, stuck,
gesticular, bottlecap,
first place, canvas, sat


he opened the door
common gentleman gesture
she killed his father


deep penetration
get caught up in the moment
Morning after pill


sip lightly, tasting
swish, gargle, head falls backwards
slight hint of poison


gracefully winding
sugar phosphate and a base
encoding our lives

sugar phosphate and a base
nucleic acid

Ok, that is enough for now, just a random smattering of what I could remember or easily find, maybe I will come across more some day.

Today, Friday January 28, the high in Denver is 62. I <3 global warming. jj.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Berlin- Awesome and Terrible

I never recounted my experiences from my last 2 weeks in Europe, I am disappointed I didnt put my thoughts in writing while they were fresh, my mind is constantly running at top speed (not going anywhere, top speed in circles) and I cant even remember my thoughts from 5 minutes ago, 5 weeks ago is long gone. On that note, I have tried keeping a journal of sorts with me at all times so that I can write down thoughts I have or interesting things I see or hear, I will often think, "na, I dont need to write that down, I can remember that," and so it is gone forever, or sometimes I will write like a little reminder, just a code word to start the thought process in my mind again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. And sometimes I will use the person I am with as a notepad and present my thought to them and then I can ask them later what it was, or the conversation that proceeds makes it a significant enough event that I remember it later. Kari is lucky enough to be my notepad pretty often, and every now and then after some capricious cerebration comes to to surface she asks where it came from and it is quite fun sometimes to trace back my string of thoughts to something real that triggered it all. I will try to write it down next time something like that happens.

I was talking about Europe, and how I should have put my experiences to paper sooner. I met a guy named Ryan, the coolest Pirate in Santa Cruz, who sold me a beautiful old Raleigh bike and from my email he clicked the link to this blog, I saw him a couple times after that and every time he encouraged me "keep documenting your life man." I try, Ryan. My return from Europe has been full. Full of travels, decisions, people, adventures... wait... I didnt talk about my final days in Europe. Berlin! This city was awesome and terrible, awesome because of its history and terrible because of its history. We happened to be there during the celebration for the 20th anniversary of German reunification which filled the streets with carnival rides, food vendors, and thousands of people. We went down the Unter den Linden on our Fat Tire bike tour (we did one in Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, annnd London) early in the day and saw the stage and vendors and things being prepared among the Brandenburg Gate. Now that is no ordinary piece or architecture right there. As one of the first places we stopped in Berlin, I was amazed to hear the history of this one spot. The gate served as the entrance to the city since the 1700s and during the war it was one of the Berlin Wall crossings, right on the line. But before that, a couple hundered years ago when NAPOLEON and the French took over Berlin, he stole the horse and chariot and took it to Paris. NAPOLEON! Of course the French were defeated 10 or so years later and the chariot was restored. How cool is that? We went on exploring and the amazing history never ceased thoughout the city. The Berlin Wall, an event that will be remembered forever, it happened in my lifetime, and there it was right in front of my eyes. There are so many interesting things to say about all of this I cant go into it all, theres a story behind the rounded top on the wall, half a mile down the road is "Checkpoint Charlie", directly behind me is the only remaining Nazi building in Berlin (which remains despised as it houses the German equivalent of the IRS), there is just so much history everywhere, and amazing architecture. We saw and learned about historic churches, palaces, parks, we saw bullet holes from WWII battles, and numerous remnants of the destruction caused in the war. WWII was obviously a prevalent part of the experience, it was amazing to see how huge of an impact the war had, and still has on the culture. Sure the US was in it, but in Europe they were IN it, and throughout my entire trip the war would come up in conversation and explanation.

Berlin is home to one of the worlds prominent Universities, Humboldt University, which sits in the heart of the city. Educated here were impressive names like Max Plank, Karl Marx, and a guy named Alfred Einschteim that seemed to impress people. In from of the university was a square that held two identical churches with an interesting history of their own, but in the middle of that square was a reminder that even an institution of education such as this with such a proud history has dark marks which must also be remembered. A plate of glass stands out in the middle of a cobble stone square and under the glass there are white shelves lining an otherwise empty room. A nearby plaque offers a brief explanation and a quote. "That was merely a prelude. Wherever they burn books, eventually they will burn people too." -Heinrich Heine, 1820. This was the site where on May 10, 1933 Nazi students took 20,000 books from the university that were not in compliance with Nazi teachings and burned then in a pile in the square. The white shelves in the inaccessible room are big enough for 20,000 books as a memorial to the burnings. They acknowledge the history that has passed through the town, the good and the bad... and the absolutely terrible.

We experienced the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, when I say terrible, this is what I mean. The memorial is housed under ground, and above it is a field of 2,700 stele, which are huge concrete slabs, covering 4 acres. The slabs stand on rolling little hills and vary in height across the field so that when walking through you will at one moment be looking out over the stele and the next be standing in the dark with concrete towering 10 feet over your head. Below, in the memorial, the information is presented as a continuation of the stele above, sometimes as a hanging continuation of the stele containing information about a person or family and their struggle for survival in concentration camps or in hiding. One room was nothing but glass rectangles on the ground reflecting the stele above them, back lit to show letters from Jews being taken to camps, being held in camps, or desperate attempts to reach people who were already in camps. It was... well you can imagine. It was interesting to think how other people were experiencing the information, some people walking through crying, did they have some tie to those lost in the Holocaust? Maybe it was out of shame? How did the Japanese tourists take it in? Are they taught the history as freely as we are in the US? Standing there next to an Asian couple in my head for a second I felt like a local and that I was standing next to tourists and felt slightly ashamed of what we were looking at, then I remembered I wasnt at home, the US helped stop all this, I felt much better after that, that is not to say that I think Germans should feel personally ashamed of what happened, it was just a weird experience.

Oh goodness, by brief write ups never end up very brief do they. Quickly, the reunification celebration was great to be a part of, the kind of local cuisine is Mediterranean, like baba ganoush and falafel and stuff, weird, and the German public transportation system is the best in the world. Next, I am off to Barcelona.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unfamous Rawlings Christmas Letter

For those of you not fortunate enough to be part of the Rawlings Family Holiday Card Mailing List, we have kept up the classically tacky tradition of writing a letter to summarize our lives since our previous installment. Yes, we know it is a Holiday faux pas, in fact we embrace that fact, and our loyal following insists that they enjoy receiving it every year, and so it comes without fail, on fancy paper, joined by a family picture and postmarked from Santa Claus, Indiana. And now you have the privilege of reading it as well, and though you are not quite getting the full experience, I hope you enjoy.


Rawlings Family Christmas 2010

Hey everbuddy! Hope this letter finds you all happy, healthy, and omnipotent. It has been another big year for the Rawlings, and an interesting one for me. Most of the year has been the same ol stuff. Lots of soccer, playing and reffing still. I started doing High School games this year, which has been an interesting experience. The big exception was a change in jobs. My KY work visa ran out, so I took the Operations Manager position at a new company, QTR Inc, in Evansville. It was a gut wrenching decision to leave my friends at Custom Resins, and a challenging start at QTR, but it is a great company with solid growth and potential. Well, we’ve still been able to get the boys to write their updates, so as long as you haven’t grown tired of the endless stream of family and friend’s newsletters, read on!

Becky: I lead a pretty mundane life compared to everyone else in the family. I am still working my school nurse job at Bosse High School and my admission nurse job at St. Mary’s Hospital. I spent a lot of my summer break in West Virginia and Pennsylvania helping and visiting family. I doubled my garden space this year but the bugs got most of my squash. Seems squash bugs are are most prevalent in this area of the midwest. We are still eating fresh tomatoes from the garden though. My new project is finding a good, used car before the end of the year. Hope you have a wonderful holiday. rawlingsbl@gmail.com

Mark - The year started off with nothing but photography: photography jobs, photography classes (my first!), work at the studio... what else are you going to do when it’s cold?! Speaking of cold, during Pittsbrugh’s snowmegeddon I did a photo project on Pittsburgh parking chairs that got some local attention and is now featured on the wikipedia page for parking chairs! Then my class ended, my photo jobs dried up, and I was jobless. Taking advantage of this joblessness I visited Brendon out in Santa Cruz for a week of west coast debauchery and succeeded admirably. Lucky for me I immediately found a good paying dream job leading bike tours in and around Pittsburgh. This included things as small as leading groups of summer camp kids around the trails of Pittsburgh on day trips, to 350 mile journeys between Pittsburgh and Washington DC (I did this trip many times over the summer) and everything in between. In between bike tours I worked on two farms, one 70 miles outside Pittsburgh (quite a ride), and one about 8 miles outside the city. I did mostly infrastructure work on both of these including building a large greenhouse out of most recycled wood and quite a few rock paths and patios. As summer faded I spent more and more time at the farms and less time on the trails, and I also moved into a nice old house on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh overlooking downtown and the surrounding hills. As soon as the bike tours ended I joined an old friend Phil on a cross country adventure that took us from west to eat by way of Salt Lake, Yellowstone, Badlands, Minnesota State Fair, Apostle Islands, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Erie sailing on Gottalife, and a visit to the farm Gillian was working on for our one year anniversary. It was a pretty spectacular way to cross the country (8 National Parks AND we skipped the great plains). To finish up the year I made another boat delivery down to the Bahamas, we saw lots of whales, a Great White Shark do a full breach, and all kinds of other exciting things like a spinnaker explode, sonic booms, and 40 ft seas. Due to breaking too many sails we had to make a three day pit stop, and to brighten spirits after beating the snot out of ourselves in 7 days of upwind sailing (gentlemen never sail to weather!) my girlfriend came down and brought good weather with her. She joined us on a beautiful gulfstream crossing and we cruised through the rest of the Bahamas at our leisure. This brought us back to a cold wintry Pittsburgh just before Thanksgiving where I plan to start hibernation soon. With no winter jobs and plenty of money saved from the summer I’ll be taking time off in the winter to catch up on photography projects and learn a couple new skills (welding and woodturning are at the top of the list). Another winter project is remodeling my website phot.ogrpahy.org, which I expect to be getting up and running around February. You can reach me as always at thebestrawlingsson@ography.org OR theworstrawlingsson@ography.org or just mark@ography.org if either of those don’t sit right in your stomach.

BRENDON- It’s a frosty Philadelphia fall morning. Six AM and I’m returning from a grueling shift of toy sorting at “R Us”. Unable to sleep I sit and think about the big decisions I have ahead of me. A glimmering white angel pops up on my shoulder. I am not getting enough sleep. “Do the sensible thing,” She says, “Make yourself a home, find a real job, you have had your adventures, now settle down and make a life for yourself.” As I ponder her immaculate wisdom I am joined by a writhing mass of pasta and meatballs levitating over my other shoulder. “Forget that sparkly chick!” The Flying Spaghetti Monster proclaims, “Go have some fun, follow your wonderful girlfriend around the country, she will be done with school in a year, have fun while you can. Besides, you have a letter to write for the Holidays, what would you say?!” It is hard to disagree with that logic, but I am still torn. As I think, the FSM extends his noodly appendage and strangles the angel on my other shoulder. That settles that, I am going on an adventure.

And so it was. I finished my time in Philly (and at Toys R Us, whew) and continued across the state to Pittsburgh, where Kari had her first placement. Kari had two three month internships left to graduate with her Masters in Occupational Therapy. It turns out it is tough to get a good job for 3 months, so I wound up stuffing papers in envelopes and filling ink cartridges, it wasn't so bad though, I love that city and being with my friends and family. Our cross country drive was next on the agenda, and when April came around we set off with a car full of junk and a mind full of California dreams. Through Dallas, Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas, we made our way to home in Santa Cruz with our 3 new housemates we found on Craigslist, luckily they turned out to be 3 of the awesomest dudes you'd ever hope to meet. There is nowhere in the country like SC, with a general laid back attitude and a trust and respect present through the community, it was great to be a part of it for what time we had there. I immediately bought a board and got into surfing, SC has the best surfing in the country and I loved it, I finally got a hang of it... just before I left. The job search was brutal, after giving up on anything biology I landed a job in tech services at the Beach Boardwalk amusement park, working on anything with a computer involved, CCTV, audio, telephones, so much more... it was pretty crazy, and I loved it, working on the beach all day with a great group of guys around people that were just there to have fun. I ended up spending 6 months there, staying to finish the season at my carnie job while Kari finished her last 6 weeks of school in Philly. The people I met and experiences I had in Santa Cruz I know will stay with me for a long time, but my time there had to come to an end. The adventure continued as I left SC for a backpacking tour of Europe. My two friends and I left in the middle of September for Europe where we traveled for 2 weeks, and on the day my friends flew home Kari flew in and the two of us continued for another 2 weeks. Ready? Amsterdam and the bicycles, bustling streets, “coffee” shops, canals, street performers, and women in windows with red lights... The Swiss Alps and snowboarding on a glacier in 50 degree weather, and the little ski village and the parties they throw, Milan and the best pizza I ever hope to eat, Rome and the immensely impressive architecture, Vatican City (I saw the pope!), and everything is so old! Munich and Oktoberfest, and the beer, the trip to the Monastery, and the beer, the beer, and the beer, and Kari! Prague and the castles, the clubs, the museums, and the astronomical clock, Berlin and the history! the Wall, and the 20th anniversary of German reunification, Barcelona, the beaches, the Spanish Inquisition, and Montjuic, Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the French Revolution, the art, the bridges, the buildings, London, the people, the Palace, the buses, the markets, the airport... home... I'll just keep it going, Kari and I took a little trip when we got back to check out possible places to live, so, LA, the sprawling extravagance, the peeeeople, Santa Cruz, the friends, the citywide Halloween party, Denver, the mountains, the city, the job opportunities... the Uhaul, the drive, the apartment, the new home. What better place to be for the holiday season than nestled in the Rockies. We are just getting moved in and are finally settling down for a while, it is nice to have a home, and I am sure that sparkly chick is happy too. So, I am a Denverite (Yes, still a Steelers fan) and we have a two bedroom apartment, the 2nd is for you when you come out to hit the ski resorts. As always, you can fill in the gaps by reading my blog at blrownsu.blogspot.com, or email me at Brawlings@gmail.com. Happy Holidays!

Alan: Welcome back everyone to the wonderful world of Mark and Brendon showing off. I left you guys last year in the magical location of Clearfield, PA, the home of my lovely almost 1 year girlfriend. This 2 lettered young lady and I went into our previous semester with a new wind, and it was flipping freezing man. It was a pretty tough semester, my favorite class of course was biochemistry.. Bet you don't know how your body digests food, how does that make you feel? But in all seriousness it was my second semester of humanities with an amazing professor. The beginning of the semester was coupled by one of the most snowful winters EVER. With that, I took all my friends to Seven Springs to ski with Brendon.. I guess we are but a smidge compared to european vacations and international shenanigans. Our other fun trip was a weekend in our wonderful nation’s capital. We stayed at my friends Aunt’s house just outside the city and rode the metro into the city, I felt so.. urban! Of course we toured all the monuments, and i elbowed the President in a game of basketball. No pain no game Prez! I woke up in a strange room with a single hanging light and a horrible headache, the last thing I remembered was black suit yelling THE PACKAGE IS DOWN! What is with him being called “The Package” anyway? I digress, we went through a couple museums and saw a thrilling documentary of the life of Sardines.. What exactly counts as an “Ocean Adventure” to those people is beyond me.. that's false advertising in my book. We had a fabulous time in D.C. the highlight of which was the Spy museum I think. Once I apologized at the YooHoo Summit and was pardoned, we thanked my friends family and were on our way back to school. The semester flew by and in the end, to keep the metaphor going, I had the wind at my back and it was smooth sailing. Did I mention I was on the Dean’s List Sea? Summer was upon us, and parting was such sweet sorrow as I bid farewell to Mo-town and my fair maiden. I traveled to the mysterious flats of Indiana with the hopes of finding a new summer job. As fate would have it, a technician at my Dad’s plant just had knee surgery so i was called upon to fill the void. It just so happened that the void was from 6 PM to 6 AM. So this summer i transformed from Alan to OWLan. The nocturnal lifestyle isn’t all that bad once you live it for a week or so. Our vacation was going to California to visit Brendon and Kari in Santa Cruz. This was the first time I had ever seen the west coast. No one told me that the water was coming from frickin Alaska though! I had to at least get one body surf in before I was thawed 500 years in the future, yes there are jetpacks, but no cute trash compacting robots! It was exciting to see San Fran and drive “The One.” The coast was amazing. Not to mention I got to see the origins of the Olson twins when they were still innocent little girls. We even tested the cars power steering down Lombard Street. Our other tangent was a trip to Monterrey where we lived it up in the city and toured a very interesting aquarium. This time I’m not being sarcastic. It was a very cool place. Sadly our visit had to end and it was back to the nightly grind. It wasn’t long before I returned to WV and moved into my new place here to live with my cousin Tim. Before school started I made a couple trips to see old friends in Pittsburgh and up to Clearfield once more. Before I knew it, Chemistry was upon me, and it was back with a vengeance. It’s like it is gunna be my job or something, you know what I mean? This semester has been another tough one, only a couple weeks left, and I eagerly await the results. I look forward to this break and seeing everyone again. Happy Holidays everyone! May the Noodle be with you!


Now wasnt that beautiful? And keeping in the spirit, I thought I would share with you the tree topper I created after a jolt of inspiration by a pasta colored length of garland hanging in the store.

Take a moment to appreciate His Noodly Appendage as it gracefully dances with the boughs.Happy Holiday everyone!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pa Pa l'Americano

I wrote a couple entries during our travels, but lacked the time to complete them and the internets to post them. So now after a whirlwind of activity on our return from Europe I have had a chance to get them online. Here is a semi complete post I wrote on the way from Barcelona to Paris.

10/6/10, tenth month. October is the tenth month. Gotta get that through my head. For the past few months I have been writing the wrong number for the month, like all of the backup batteries throughout the entire boardwalk key scan system have the wrong month on them, I signed numerous checks, various forms and papers with the wrong month, and I also booked a flight from Barcelona to Paris with the wrong month. Good thing flights are so cheap here, it was a $20 flight and we rebooked for the same price, but seriously, how stupid. It has been a while since I updated, Kari and I have been going nonstop since she flew in last Sunday. We left the day after Kari got there so we had to cram in the munich experience as well as we could. It was basically straight from the airport to Oktoberfest, beer, went to Hofbrauhaus, beer, saw the glockenspeil, beer, delicious rotissery chicken, sleep. Great day. It really is a gross display of drunkeness at oktoberfest, as we walked down the hill before even entering the grounds we were greeted by a little brawl being broken up by cops treating the kids in ways that would make national news in the US, and after we walked by they took off right by us to stop another totally unrelated fight that started just 50 feet in front of us. Navigating the tents was the next challenge, you have to be at a table to get beer, and if you get there any time after 11am there are no tables, so after scouring 3 tents for an empty spot I devised a strategy, just look for a beer maid going down a row, stand next to a table in the row, and when she comes by just pretend you belong. "swei bier bitte". Those women are impressive, holding 4 one liter mugs with one balanced on top in each hand. 10 liters of beer at once, pretty intense. We did eventually find a table with some friendly germans and stood on the tables singing along to songs, some in english (sweet caroline, YMCA, and the like), some in german, it didnt matter, we were just having a good time.

Our next stop was Prague. The Czech Republic. It sounds so foreign. It was, of course, and loaded with history and impressive gothic relics. The biggest castle in the world, buildings from the BCs, an intricate astronomical clock. I wish I had more history on these places, we took a bike tour to learn what we could, but it turned into a pretty terrible experience. City Bike tours in Prague, what a sham. Well first of all, the Czech is not part of the European Union, so we had to get Czech Crown, which is about 20/1 with the US dollar, so when I got money out i got a single 2000 crown bill. Well the stinkin tour cost us 500 crown apiece, 5 of us followed Nikolai as he flew through the Prague streets without even a glance behind him to make sure we made it, somehow we all did, bounding over curbs, carrying our bikes up steep muddy hills, and swerving through traffic. His broken english and limited knowledge made for a pretty pathetic tour, and what he did tell us about I am fairly certain was made up on the spot. We did make it to some pretty awesome places on the journey though, it is a beautiful city. That night we experienced what FHM magazine said was one of the top 10 adventures in the world, the Prague Underground bar crawl. A young chick from louisiana started it 5 years ago, she and about 30 others met at the first bar, we drank free for 2 hours, played some foosball (or kicker as some here call it), and the rest of the night was a jumble of clubs, drinks and dancing, we met some germans, some aussies, brazilians, it was a pretty great time, though i wouldnt even give it top 10 adventures of my life, Im not sure what FHM was thinking.

It seemed kindof inapproriate to me to go to a natural history museum while on vacation, rocks being rocks and animals being animals wherever you are, but the National Museum in Prague was incredible. We walked in unaware of what we were getting into and ended up spending more than 4 hours wandering the exhibits. Thousands of specimens of rocks and minerals were enough to occupy and amaze you all day, but it led into thousands more of fossils, huge rooms full of taxidermied animals and skeletons, specemins like a stuffed giraffe and an entire whale skeleton, anthropological exhibits of the culture of prehistoric man and human evolution in the area with rooms full of artifacts and bones. I loved it, and Kari did a great job of pretending to. Just outside of the museum we had Italian food better than any I had in Rome, in Prague, weird. I am going to just have to do a whole seperate write up of the culinary experiences, that is an adventure in itself.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oktoberfest is in Tents

I am now in Munich Germany looking at the glow of Oktoberfest from our platinum club hotel room a few blocks away from the park where it is held. Freakin nice. I have 2 more days here in Munich with the guys and then they leave and Kari flies in, it has just been a whole mess of awesome and it is not going to stop. Switzerland was a blast, the high points all being because of a little snowboard shop called Popcorn. I demoed a Burton board from the shop and it was awesome, it was a $1500 board, so it better be, and it did not dissapoint. we took the half hour gondola ride up to the glacier in the morning and rode until the slopes closed at 2, they close it early because the afternoon sun melts the snow and makes for bad conditions, but while we were out there it was great. I was surfing the snow all day, i felt invincible on this board, it carved like a dream, was responsive, light, fast and nimble, and it was all great until I went for a jump in the snowboard park, i tried a few times and the park was just way too big for me to handle. I hit it, biffed the landing, and it was fine, but then when i got up and was boarding down the icy landing ramp I caught an edge on my nice new sharp edged snowboard and next thing i knew i was lying in thge snow and couldnt breath. Really it was no big deal, I fell unexpectedly and a hard sunglasses case in my pocket jammed into my chest and knocked the wind out of me, but then i was sitting there and couldnt breath and i kind of freaked out a little bit. I am a pretty level headed person, reasonable, unflappable you might say. Well that flapped me. I think that somewhere in the back of my head I was having some kind of post traumatic episode, lying on the ground unable to breath I thought maybe my lung collapsed again, maybe thats something that if it happens once it is easier to happen again, so i am contemplating the fact that i am dying right now, rocking back and forth trying to make something happen and I finally ghet one big breath in, that felt so good, but if you have ever had the breath knowcked out of you you know what it is like after that, you cant breath back out and when you finally do it comes out in a terrible groan, so i sat there struggling to breath in and then groaning out as i rock back and forth for a little while. I finally got back to normal and boarded back to the bottom and sat there for a minute trying to figure out what just happened to me, both physically and mentally. I was really freaking out, like i was scared to go down thge slope again, but i wasnt about to let myself get in my own way... so I went and booked it down the next slope and it was fantastic and i was fine. But man was that a weird experience, i wasnt quite right for the rest of the day. The night before we hit the slopes we went to the "discotech" that we heard was world famous for its parties. It was at Popcorn, the snowboard shop, which turned into a rockin dance party at night with a full bar and a DJ. We partied all night with mostly locals, we were the only americans in the whole place, which made us instantly awesome, and we knew every song they played because they played the exact same music you would hear at a club in the states, and we had a great time.

Heely segway shoes, they have a wheel in the heel like heelys and the mechanics of a segway.

The train ride to Rome was interesting, we spent most of the trip trying to converse with 2 Italian women and a German couple and learnig what we could of the italian language, it was pretty fun. We stopped in Milan and explored the city a bit, got some pizza at a little cafe and it was magnificent, I ate pizza at least 6 times in Italy and none of it even came close to the caliber of the Milan pizza. Our waitress didnt, or wouldnt, speak english so ordering was a bit difficult, I saw what I figured would be sausage pizza and went for that, Jon took a shot in the dark at a Napoli pizza, and when it came to Zack he looked up wide eyed in shock and pointed to Jon and said same as him. Our pizzas came out, my delicious sausage pizza, and... I kid you not... it turns out Jon and Zack both ordered sardine pizzas. It was salty and fishy and really not very good, edible, but definitely a mistake, a ridiculous hilarious mistake. So all in all great dining experience for me, not so much for the others, and we went on to Rome. Our hostel was great, one of our rommates joined us for the evening, he was from a navy ship not much smaller than an aircraft carrier that stays out at sea almost all the time and just sits, loaded with weapons and vehicles, to act as a first response should quick action be needed in the area. That night I put my Vibram 5 fingers on for the first time and the response was unexpectedly insane. They are shoes that have toes, like toe socks with soles basically, and people freaked out about them. I talked about them in the hostel bar till it closed, went around the corner to a bar and the manager sat down with us and we had little bargaining war as he tried to buy them from me, he was ready to take my offer of 60 euroes and the sandals he was wearing, but he decided he would see what he could find online first making me promise to come back the next day. I didnt, i bet he was pissed.

Dang is the Colleseum big! That was impressive. The city was full of historic sites that even today were incredible to see, to imagine what it must have been like when it was built to see such incresdible feats of architecture is mind boggling, no wonder Rome was so powerful. A full days walk got us around to most of the main points in the city, and on day 2 we went to the Vatican City. People... I saw the pope. not a picture, not even through glass, just me lookin at the freakin pope. There was a ceremony on the vatican grounds and he was there in front of thousands of people, including me. I snuck my new swiss army knife past the guards. The Vatican museum started with an extensive display of egyptian art, which totally blew my mind. I thought it was going to be entirely devoted to catholicism and its history but the first 3 or 4 rooms were all egyptian artifacs and information about their culture and religion. The rest consisted of a ridiculous amount of roman sculptures, some out of place modern art, some truely impressive paintings, a couple hundred gift shops, and last but not least, the sistene chapel. The effort put into every detail in the chapel made it an incredible sight to behold, that guy was good.

After another train ride and talking the night away with a new friend from Berlin we are now in Munich enjoying Oktoberfest. They serve beer in liters here. A liter is a lot of beer. A lot of good beer. One thing i was not expecting was the rides. There are more, bigger, better rides here than at the amusement park I have been working at for the past few months, it is insane, we rode a roller coaster that just flings you through the 5 olympic rings, got flipped and turned and flug on other rides, then went and ate a delicious bratwurst and got a liter of beer, standing on tables and clanking sloshing cheers with random passersby as we do our best to sing along with thousands of others crowding the massive tents, what a crazy place to be! The famous Munich glockenspeil. Dissapointment. Traditional German clothing. Awesome. There are more people walking around in lederhosen and dimdl than not. I feel out of place without leather pants and suspenders on. Who ever thought that would happen. The guys kind of look ridiculous, and the girls, well, i dont look, but i have heard that they look pretttty good, with their shirts all down to there and skirts up to here. Thats what they tell me.

We are now getting ready for the monastary, if i survived the vatican in the presence of the pope, i am pretty sure i can get through this without any smiting. we will see. Pictures will come once i get home and get the time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


9/14 over the atlantic- I did not expect to be this excuited to be llanding in Europe. I think "giddy" is appropriate. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, most importantly on the agenda, get a load of this, you may remember my last home in Pennsylvania before moving to California was on California Ave, and then my last home in California before moving to Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania Ave. **Cue Twilight Zone music** Crazy right? I am going to have to find a Hawaii Ave. And speaking of a place to live, I dont have one! After legitimately trying to get a job for the last few months, I have absolutely nothing to show for it, not even a phone call. The closest I have come to getting an interview is the first sentenceof the 3 rejection emails I have received. Thank you for your interest in a position with our company, after reviewing your application... bla bla bla. At least some real person looked at my resume, I am probably more excited about those rejection letters than I should be. My resume was recently reviewed by someone at Pioneer for a job working with corn hybrid crops, i know that because of the rejection letter, but at least I know that.

9/18 On the train to Saas Fee Switzerland- There is nowhere in the US that is anything like Amsterdam, though I think Santa Cruz is one of the closest. The architecture is amazing, all of the buildings have an aire of importance, maybe arrogance in their old age. I suppose I am just not used to seeing such old buildings and the architecture that goes with it, I have only been exposed to it in history books and movies, so to see it in real life it just seemed important. We made friends with a couple on the train earlier today and they live in a building that was built in the 1500s, I cant even begin to appreciate the history that their one building has been through, but it isd all like that, this whole freakin continent. Its so old. Beautiful buildings, the city is right on the water, parks throughout the city, a canal system throughout the city, it was awesome. Of course, that is what they made it for, to look so great, it is one gigantic tourist trap, we literally met 2 actual Dutch people the whole time, one of which on the train out. We were in a crowd of about 150 people watching a street performer and he was desperately trying to get someone to say the Dutch word for torch, but literally nobody within earshot of this poor screaming man knew the answer. All tourists. We had an opportunity to see the real Holland with a Dutch girl we met through our hostel mates, but my travel buddies had other plans, we rented bikes and toured the city, which was a great experience. The streets are packed with bikes and vespas, the occasional car honks its way through the crowd, but bikes rule the road my a great majority, you are free to go anywhere and park your bike any time without worry. WWII is a much bigger deal here. Everyone in Amsterdam speaks perfect english. There are Swiss Army men everywhere in Switzerland. You get weird looks when you go into a coffee shop and only get a coffee. Shared hostels = no sleep.
We have checked in to our bed and breakfast in Saas Fee, it is nice here at the resort, but we can see the glacier and the peaks 10,000 feet up covered in snow and people walking around with ski equipment, its weird. The bus ride up was incredible, winding through the valleys of the alps, through tunnels and over bridges, surrounded by centuries old villages, mountain streams and waterfalls. This is gonna be good.

9/19 It was good. More on this later.